2020 saw the video game industry overtake the likes of music, film, and television to become the most lucrative form of entertainment in the world. Its professional subgenre, known as ‘Esports’ in the industry, recently broke the boundaries of a $1 billion dollar estimate and has finally given gamers everywhere the opportunity to live the dream and make money playing their favorite titles.
One of the most lucrative and stacked games in the Esports sphere is Valve Corporation’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO). The game was first released back in 2012 and has evolved into one of the best examples of the growth of the Esports industry as an example of hyper-competitive athletics blending together with huge entertainment spectacles.
One of the most prestigious events in both the CS: GO and the wider Esports calendar is IEM Katowice, held annually in the early months of the year. With the 2021 edition just around the corner, here’s your complete guide to the event and everything you need to know.
The History Of IEM Katowice
Along with Cologne in Germany, Katowice is the only location to have hosted three Major Championships, the Valve-sponsored events that are hosted twice a year and remain the most prestigious tournaments a side can get their hands on. The first Major it hosted was back in 2014 with the ESL One Major Series being won by Virtus. Pro, however, it wasn’t until 2019 that Intel Extreme Masters was given its first Major status with the event seeing Astralis takedown ENCE.
The Intel Extreme Masters is one of the longest-running event circuits in the entire history of Esports, hosting events around the world across a wide range of games such as League of Legends, Starcraft II, and even CS: GO’s predecessor, 1.6.
IEM Gamescon 2015 was the first instance of the circuit moving into the realms of CS: GO, and the first IEM Katowice was hosted later that year with Fnatic besting Luminosity Gaming. IEM Katowice 2020 was the last major LAN event to be held prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, with Natus Vincere besting G2 on the stage without a crowd present.
The Format Of IEM Katowice 2021
IEM Katowice 2021 is due to be hosted from February 16th all the way to the 28th of the same month. The event will continue to be hosted in an online format and will start with a double elimination play-in between 16 sides who have qualified from various regional rankings and events over the past year. Eight of those sixteen sides will qualify for the full event, which is scheduled to begin on the 18th.
The eight qualified teams from the play-ins will join up with eight of the top-ranked teams in the world across two groups in another double elimination competition until only six sides are left for the final playoffs.
Only two CS: GO events had a prize purse worth more than $600,000 over the course of 2020, however, IEM Katowice will mark the second instance of a tournament possessing $1 million since the turn of the new year, indicating the scene is well and truly on the way back. The winners of IEM Katowice 2021 will enjoy the lion’s share of the prize pool, taking home roughly $400,000 for a first-place finish.
Who Should You Back?
IEM Katowice is always one of the most popular events to place wagers on at Esports betting specialists such as Unikrn.com, but knowing where to put your money in the volatile world of online Counter-Strike can be tough.
Four-time Major Champions Astralis is the most successful CS: GO side in the history of the game and rounded off 2020 with a win at the IEM Global Challenge to seal the top spot in the world rankings, however, their form in 2021 has since been considerably more lukewarm and they were surprisingly dumped out of the BLAST Spring Groups by Ninjas in Pyjamas and BIG last month.
Natus Vincere are the reigning champions of IEM Katowice, and their win at the event last month took them to the summit of the HLTV world rankings. Despite being placed as the third-best side in the world, the CIS org began 2021 in the best way possible by defeating the two sides ahead of them, Astralis and Team Vitality, at the BLAST Premier: Global Finals in what has been the biggest test of the year so far.
For those who love to back an outsider, the likes of BIG have consistently been upsetting the odds throughout 2020 and arrive at the tournament very much regarded as the best of the rest’ outside of CS’ big three top teams, and fresh off of a convincing win at the BLAST Spring group.